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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  April 27, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT

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closed captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman funds foundation. mad cow diseases surfaces for the first time in california. the usda says the food chain is safe, but continues to investigate whether other animals are afflicted. california prison officials announce a massive system wide overall. tangled traffic for those expected to try to cross the golden gate bridge this weekend. doyle drive will be demolished. making way for the new phase of the parkway. and is technology manufacturing in china reeking havoc on the environment?
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we'll here from environmental prize winner ma june coming up nec. ♪ hello, i'm del belva davis. joining me on our newscast. san francisco chronicle transportation reporter, michael donova. and michael montgomery, reporter for the center of investigative reporting. and paul rogers, san jose mercury news environment writer. paul, a rare form of mad cow disease spotted in california.
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how concerned should we be? >> well, statistically not very concerned. nobody has ever died in the united states from mad cow disease connected with u.s. beef. as we remember from the '80s and 90s, there was a very bad outbreak in england. about 150 people died there. a lot of safety processes have been put in place since. food safety is a serious thing. according to the cbc, 3,000 people in america, 3,000 die every year from food born illness. and these are things like salmonella, e. coli, other bacteria infections. just last week dole recalled hundreds of crates of lettuce because of the salmonella scare. a year ago 30 people died from cantaloupes. some of us remember the spinach
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scare here five years ago. food safety is a serious thing. the thing about this mad cow incident that happened on a dairy cow that wasn't going into the food supply. the concern is that some dairy cows when they get old are slaughtered for human meat consumption. they go and become hamburger. so the usda is investigating the dairy farm where this cow came from to see if other cattle might have it, to see if those cattle previously have gone into the food supply. and consumer groups say this is exposing some loopholes and some weaknesses in the u.s. safety system. >> and there's a battle on for the dollar to do a better job. is that what they're saying? that they're going to need more money in order to ensure the safety? >> there was some reform put in place after 2003 when the first case was discovered in the united states. this is only the fourth time ever in the u.s. we've had a case. certainly the first in
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california. the beef industry frankly has killed a lot of attempts at reform. and there are stricter rules in other countries. one thing that has come up is we get only 1 in 1,000 cows in america are tested for mad cow disease. in japan and europe, it's most of the cows. the cow has toed by dead when you test it. it costs about, i don't know, $20 or $0 for each cow. when you talk about tens of millions of animals, that's a lot of money. then the question is, who pays? look, nobody has ever died. it's incredibly rare. our practices are working. consumer groups are saying we don't know if we're not testing other animals. was this the only one that we randomly got lucky and found it in? >> so you got to that point in your piece, one of your story this is week. you quoted one state ad official says the system is working, it proves the system is working.
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it was a lucky catch. what was the number? >> 34 million. 1 in 1,000. >> and you have consumer groups saying, wait a minute. >> it's a great debate. were we lucky with one that we randomly tested, or does it show that the system works? these mathematically after the 2003 case, we increase tenfold the number of cattle in america that we test every year. we only found two cases. i think you can make a good argument when 3,000 people a year are dying from e. coli and salmonella and other diseases and we haven't had one yet die from mad cow, people ought not to get too worried and too worked up about it. i also think one of the main short comings exposed is unlike most other large beef exporting countries, like canada, for example, argentina, the united states does not have a system where we can track cattle from
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the time they're born to the supermarket. that means when there's a problem like mad cow or an e. coli outbreak, it's difficult to quickly track back where the animal came from. and the reason we don't have the tough standard to find the farm and quarantine it and make sure no other cows come from it is the beef industry has faugtd it. they say it's federal intrusion. it's cumbersome. they would rather brand the animals. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. some people think it's they're trying to avoid the taxes and not have the federal government know exactly how many animals they have. be that as it may, the obama administration is putting in a new rule to require tracking. it's only if the an crosses state lines. >> is there any indication that this is a larger, more widespread problem in california? >> i don't think we know yet. you've got all these guys right now crawling all over this still
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secret dairy farm. and they're going to be doing things like testing to see and checking every bit of paper. was any animal sick? are they displaying any signs of mad cow? if they find one other animal that looks like it has this, they will kill every cow on the farm. it could be tens of thousands. at the same time, this is a very unusual strain of the disease, which doesn't come from eating infected feed, meaning feed made from other cattle parts, which is illegal, but can occasionally slip into food. some scientists think this happens simultaneously where the proteins in the brain behave differently. but as for now it's only the one cow. >> so we know the one cow. we know they're still testing. you're saying this is very unusual. >> had a hamburger for dinner, but if we learn too much more i may be having a tofu burger next
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week. >> you are here to talk to us about one event that's taken many years of talk and discussion, and that's a real change in the way we handle the criminal justice system and particular prison. so tell us about the prison overhaul and what it will mean to all of us. >> right. so we have the correction officials this week announcing a major strategic plan, moving forward to continue to raise the inmate population, to bring a budget down significantly, to throw out a number, the current sbujt $10 million. it went from 3% of the general fund to 11% of the general fund in 30 years. this plan would bring that down to about 7.5%. now the thing is, we've heard plans like this before. there was a plan five years ago that looked great on paper. put together by smart people, well intentioned academics. it didn't go anywhere. it ran into reality with fiscal problems and what have you. the difference today is there's
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some momentum. we have realignment that started in october. it's already brought down the prison population by about 22,000 inmates. that in it of itself is making all sorts of things possible within the prison system that weren't possible before. so this plan is essentially going to ride on the coat tails of realignment. >> explain realignment, which is the key here. >> the governor, one of his big initiatives -- and realignment essentially shifts the responsibility for certain inmates, certain felons for the state to the county, both for parole and if they commit another crime. because we have the shifting or diverting of felons from the state to the county, this is why we're seeing such a drastic drop in the inmate population. you know, they call it the churn rate. these are people who go into the prison system for maybe two weeks, two months, and they're out again, and they're in again, and they're out again. they're trying to slow the revolving door. one concern is the state system
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sort of passing on its problems to the counties. are we going to see overcrowded county jails instead of overcrowded state prisons? that's one of the worries. the other worry is, will there be the money to fund a lot of this? >> we've been doing realignment for six or seven months now. what is the answer? what are we seeing? is the crime rate going up? are the county prisons overcrowded? what's happening so far? >> the big headline is we are seeing a significant reduction in the population at the state level. so it's working in that sense. i've talked to different folks in different counties. not surprisingly, it's playing out unevenly. you have counties in san francisco that are really prepared for this. other counties aren't. you have some counties with population caps on their jails. and they've been having to make decisions on early releaguing some people convicted and awaiting trial. so it's playing out unevenly. there haven't been any horror stories yet. the idea is this applies to
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people whose most recent offense is nonviolent, non deasex relat >> there was real strong objections to this. >> well, there's concerns, of course, about the l.a. jail system. i mean, there's been big problems there, and it's not the only one in the state. so it's part of the question of can counties handle this responsibility, and will the state have the money to continue to fund it. >> how well thought out is this is is this a well considered plan? is this the typical cut the budget? i think generally it's getting good marks. ideas that have been around and in place. so a lot of things are completely new. they're taking the liabilities and turning them into assets. here's an example.
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the state's classification system was shown to be overclassifying inmates. they were putting them in high security units when maybe they didn't need to be. under this plan they will move the inmates into lower security facilities because they're not a big risk. that will save money. there are all sorts of other ways they're finding cost savings. >> there are two issues on the ballot this november. those should save money. >> well, this really isn't about realignment. it's about fundamental changes in the realignment. estimates are $184 million a year. there's 720 people on death row. there's only been 1 executions in 34 years. some of the money saved will supposedly go to help solve homicide and rape cases. that's what the ballot
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initiative supporters are saying. the other is three strikes. there's an initiative that will change three strikes and reduce the sentencing structure. >> and three strikes would be a sentencing structure that made it difficult for anybody to be paroled again. >> correct. this will modify it so people convicted of a third felon wouldn't be sentenced to 25 to life for a lower level crime. >> and does this settle the court cases on overcrowding and lack of sufficient health care? >> we will see. the department has to get the population down to 110,000 by 2013. they'll be close, but they may miss that mark and have to ask the court for a little bit of the wiggle room, if you will. >> a lot going on there, but not as much as what's going on in just minutes away over on doyle drive. >> that's right. the fun has already begun. it's going to be a loud, dusty and noisy weekend for people
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over alongside doyle drive, and chrissy field, it will be as someone told me today, the noisiest national park in the country this weekend. starting at 8:00 doyle drive will be demolished. they're going to close it down. they've already closed the marina onramps. and it will disappear after 75 years. it was built along with the golden gate bridge. and for a long time it's been considered too narrow, too seism seismically fragile and in need of replacement. and they're going to start to replace it. it's a long battled, carefully designed combination of three tunnels, two bridges. it's scenic. it will cost $1.1 billion and should be open in about three years. about half of it is built already. starting monday, people are going to find something entirely different when they approach doyle drive.
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>> well, we can see an animation of what it's going to look like or is in the process now of -- >> right. now this portion here is already built. this is a new sort of y intersection. and now we've shifted. we're heading from the golden gate bridge south. this is along the current doyle drive. we're approaching highway 1. which will split off to the right here. and going straight ahead across a new viaduct being built. and heading into a tunnel. the battery tunnel. and it's one of three tunnels that will exist along the way. heading through the tunnel. you come out onto a -- there's an embankment here and then you'll head onto a temporary bypass being built in the area right behind the sports basement and some of the old buildings. so we're just sort of reaching
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the end here, and then you come out at the palace of fine arts. >> i was amazed to see when -- you all remember that bridge fell down in minnesota. five or six years ago. >> right. >> and the department of transportation has the list where they rank all the bridges in the united states, 1 to 100 on how safe they are, how likely they are to collapse. when journalists went and looked at the bridges in california. they saw doyle drive was a 2. 2 out of 100. i guess the worst in the state of california. i had no idea it was that bad. >> it was the worst in the state of california. the second worst in the nation. i can't remember what the first was. i think it scored a two or a three on the scale the bridge in minnesota was in the range of the 20s. >> so we're very lucky this didn't fall down already. >> and that does not consider seismic safety. it's basically road safety. it was the narrow lanes. the fact that there's no median
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and the type of construction. and the ever changing approach of the little yellow markers in the road. so from day-to-day it could be something different. >> yeah, it could be a terrifying experience. just to add to that. i remembering it was identified as a prop, going back to the 50s or further. it's beautiful to look at this animation. why did it take so long? literally decades? >> it's a typical bay area or california experience, which is, you know, it's a struggle to find the money. you don't just go to one place and say here's $1.1 billion. you go hat in hand to these different agencies and get your members of congress looking for it and round up money. it goes through a national park. it was originally and army base. so you have to be concerned
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about that then people say i want it to look nice. and we should have a tunnel here. and we should be able to walk. all those things are going to happen, but that took years and years of doing it, and the person who designed it apparently came up for the idea of it while sitting on top of the dome at the palace of fine art. >> one thing we know, there will be changes tonight starting at 8:00. but that's only the beginning. then this is going to go on over the weekend. and then what are we left with? >> well, we'll have the new alignment, which is a temporary detour. a temporary bypass, which travels on the ground and it heads into the tunnel and then the viaduct. that's actually half of the road. >> and then we can expect a protest over the weekend from occupy also? >> probably not over the weekend. but they're looking at may 1st, may day. also my birthday by the way. and that's sort of a traditional
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labor protest day. and there's a coalition of unions at the golden gate bridge that are having difficultying negotiating a contract. they've been talking for a year. it's mostly hung up over health care issues, like many contracts are. and they've enlisted the help of occupy people who are coming out. and there's question. no one knows if they're going to shut down the bridge. >> a lot of activity over there. and finally, a look at the environmental impact multinational companies, many based here in the bay area, have in china. laura seidel has our story. >> reporter: china, the most populous country in the world with more than 1.3 billion people is well known as a major
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manufacturing hub for many silicone based companies. but the great industrial boom has come with a cost. environmental degradation of air and water quality has led to dangerous held conditions. hundreds of millions of chinese people are exposed to polluted air. many don't have access to safe drinking water with river contaminated with heavy metals from manufacturing. some companies pressure the suppliers to cut costs by ignoring environmental standards. former investigative journalist has witnessed the problems firsthand. he's been on the front lines bringing the issues into the public eye. most recently through the institute of public and environmental affairs. by tracking pollution throughout the country, mah has been able to work with the chinese government and the national corporation to clean up their act. i spoke with him when he was in town recently to receive a gold man environmental award.
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>> a thought a lot of people may not understand the scope of the environmental problem that china faces. one which you yourself first discovered as a journalist and moved onto realize you needed to do something about it. what did you see? >> during the 1990s i had the chance to travel to different parts of china. what i saw is this massive industrialization going on. but in the meantime, our eco system is being impacted. in the northern part of china, many rivers had run dry. including the mighty yellow river. and in the south, there are quite some cities which have crisscrossing rivers and lakes that people still don't have access to sufficient safe drinking water because water was too much contaminated. >> and did you realize really the potential for drinking water
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crisis because you already saw people having trouble getting water. were you seeing people getting sick? >> yeah, i saw those water sources get so much contaminated, and through research we found it's not just normal plu tantdpollutants, but toxins. some cancer. and we actually saw in some regions the villages where they identify the rate. i came to the conclusion that the problem, you know, the environmental challenge is so big, and unless we got extensive public precipitation, we would not be able to solve the problem. but people need to be informed before they can get involved. so we need to give them information.
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so you began to collect information often from companies that were supplying american companies. >> yes. of course, china is not just manufacturing to meet the rising demand of its own people, but it's taalso the factory of the world. so while china may export all the cheap products, all the waste got dumped in our own backyard. contaminating the air, the water t coastal seas, the water. i think one negative is that all this major brands, when it came to china to do the resourcing, it's always about knocking down the pros. so they drive the suppliers to cut corners on environmental standards to win the contract. that's causing a lot of. >> are they any better now?
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>> yes for about a year and a half they would not be able to make any progress. even with specific cases of pollution and poisoning. but then over the past half a year things have changed. they finally approached and try to communicate all the issues. >> i guess the question in a lot of people's minds is should we feel guilty about the products? is there something we can do on this side. >> back home, the apple products are extremely popular. many of my friends are also apple users. to them my message is always, using it is not a problem. we're using it products every day. also for our work. you know. our work is all based on this ip technology.
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you know, doing all this. every day. so the issue is not about we need to stop using all the devices. but the issue is about we need to recognize. there's downside. there's a big impact from the manufacturing of the all the products. especially when the lifestyle is getting shorter and shorter. so the impact is getting much larger. if we care about the issue, then we could make our voice heard. you know. we could express ourselves to those brands. you know, to show them, demonstrate to them, that as a consumer, i care about this issue. i want them to honor their commitment. >> thank you so much for joining us today.
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>> thank you. >> and that's all for tonight. and i want to thank all of you for joining us here. great stories tonight. we hope that you'll visit us at kqed.org/thisweek. that's where you can watch complete episodes and segments and subscribe to our newsletter and podcast a and shares our thoughts about the program and stories. i'm belva davis. good night. ♪
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